- Middle East/North Africa
Saudi Arabia on Sunday criticized world reactions to its beheading a Sri Lankan maid convicted of killing her employer's baby, the official SPA news agency reported.
Riyadh "deplores the statements made ... over the execution of a Sri Lankan maid who had plotted and killed an infant by suffocating him to death, one week after she arrived in the kingdom," the government spokesperson said.
Rizana Nafeek was beheaded on Wednesday in a case that sparked widespread international condemnation, including from rights groups which said she was just 17 when she was charged with murdering the baby in 2005.
Nafeek was found guilty of smothering the infant after an argument with the child's mother.
The case soured diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka which on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia in protest.
The government spokesperson condemned what he called "wrong information on the case," and denied that the maid was a minor when she committed the crime.
"As per her passport, she was 21 years old when she committed the crime," he said, adding that "the kingdom does not allow minors to be brought as workers."
He said the authorities had tried hard to convince the baby's family to accept "blood money," but they rejected any amnesty and insisted that the maid be executed.
Saudi Arabia "respects ... all rules and laws and protects the rights of its people and residents, and completely rejects any intervention in its affairs and judicial verdicts, whatever the excuse," the spokesperson said.
The UN's human rights body on Friday expressed "deep dismay" at the beheading, and the European Union said it had asked the Saudi authorities to commute the death penalty.
Human Rights Watch said Nafeek had retracted "a confession" that she said was made under duress. She said the baby accidentally choked to death while drinking from a bottle.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of sharia, or Islamic law.
Last year the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom beheaded 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures, while HRW put the number at 69.
So far this year, three people have been executed.